Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has said he does not think there will be a serious split in his party ahead of a special conference to debate supporting the PSNI police.
“I think not,” he said. “Contrary to what our detractors from outside Sinn Féin say, this is the most democratic phase of republican politics that I have seen in my lifetime.”
Mr Adams, who has been president of Sinn Féin for the past 18 years, said internal meetings had gone well. The debates had been “ferocious” but the party remained united in its pursuit of “a better Ireland, a national republic, in which citizens are treated on the basis of equality”.
He said Sinn Féin had to keep the PSNI accountable, despite republican concerns that the force remains under the authority of the British Crown.
Asked about the weeks ahead, Mr Adams said the ard fheis was being asked to agree with the leadership “that we are in a position now to support the PSNI and it will set out the terms of reference for us doing that’’.
“It will also mandate the ard chomhairle of the party to implement the motion.
“My focus has not been on the implementation of the motion but on getting the support in the first instance of our own organisation and our own support base for this initiative, and secondly to win at least some understanding from those opposed to us.’’
Sinn Féin would not take up positions on the Policing Board until a power-sharing executive is restored, he added.
Meanwhile, SDLP leader Mark Durkan has warned that the British government is providing for “continuity” Diplock courts.
Mr Durkan was speaking during the Justice and Security Bill at the Westminster parliament in London.
He said that British government gave a commitment in 2003 that it would abolish Diplock courts and the north’s emergency laws but this was not happening.
Mr Durkan added that powers which were always meant to be temporary are now being passed for good.
“At a time when the security situation has never been better, there is no reason and no excuse for doing this,” he said.